Truth be known, I’m not really sure if the business name of this shop is Jerusalem Bakery or Lior the Baker. Both monikers are proudly displayed and are equally descriptive of who and what you will find inside. It’s a cozy little place, family run, with glass cases and tables of goodies beckoning you to take a closer look.
It is unique among the Jewish-themed bakeries in Phoenix in that it is not churning out treats for the masses. Instead, it is baking for individuals and serving soul food to souls. There isn’t a huge selection of different items like you found at Karsh’s before it closed, but what you will find are several highly specialized and perfected offerings from savory to sweet, a weekly soup, challah, and seasonal specials at the holidays. You will also find Israeli owners eager to explain their wares and who have pride in their craft. I once asked Lior if he would cut a cheese Danish in half for me so two of us could share it and he initially didn’t want to do it. I watched as he reluctantly retrieved a knife and studied the best way to half it. I think he thought it was sacrilege to deface such a beautiful work of art.
There are a few little tables inside and a few outside of the shop, for those like me, who don’t want to wait to eat what you just bought. This is very thoughtful of them.
Even though there are only a few items to choose from, the choice is hard because it all looks so good. So, I’m doing you a favor now, I’ve tried a few things and maybe I can steer you in the right direction. Over the course of several visits, here is what I had:
Almond Croissant $4.95
There are two things you should know about every single pastry they offer. They are decadently rich and large enough to share. You should also know that any form of croissant they make is flaky, fresh, and most likely the best you’ve ever tasted.
The almond croissant is decorated with shaved almonds and powdered sugar. Inside is a deliciously sweet almond paste that helps hold the whole thing together, as well as add a burst of almond flavor to an already delicious pastry.
Chocolate Croissant $4.95
This creation is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. It’s the same heavenly and flaky croissant only this time the filling is Belgium chocolate with a chocolate drizzle on the outside. It’s shareable, but only with someone you really love because even though there is plenty, it’s hard to give up half.
Cheese Danish $4.95
We move now from the puff pastry of a croissant to the leavened pastry of a Danish, and everything starts to get wonderfully dense. You notice that just from the weight in your hand before you even take a bite. It is so fresh that you can tell they were just made. The filling is creamy, the pastry is sensational, and the combination of the two make your eyes roll back in your head. If you love cheese Danish, this is a must try.
Chocolate Babka $14.99
Your eyes want this even before your mouth has a chance to ask what it is. When the answer comes back, “chocolate babka,” the deal is sealed, and the transaction takes place. It comes cradled in its own baking dish which simply states, “I made this for you.” It’s a symphony of golden brown yeast dough stuffed with Nutella and chocolate chips, and if that isn’t enough, drizzled with chocolate as well. Yes, it’s a little pricey but worth every penny.
Burekas $3.50 each or 7 for $20
These are popular Israeli breakfast snacks you can eat on the go – but be prepared to be stopped in your tracks. I can’t really tell you which part is better, the outside pastry shell, or the filling. I tried and loved three different kinds:
Spinach and Cheese: This is kind of like a spanakopita on steroids. Crunchy, buttery, packed with flavor and filling.
Potato and Cheese: There is nothing not to love in this classic combination. It fits in the palm of your hand and is hearty.
Mushroom, Cheese and Onion: I love this combination and have had it twice, but I save them for lunch, not breakfast.
Jam Cookies $7.99/pack
I would describe these like a buttery shortbread cookie with a nice, stiff, strawberry jam dollop smack dab in the heart shape center, working as a glue holding the two layers together. They are wonderful little bites, quick to eat and you find yourself wanting several. I have seen these around town at parties, and you can tell they came from the Jerusalem Bakery.
Jerusalem Challah $6.99
You know how some challahs are yellow and some are white? The yellow ones are made with eggs and the white ones are not. The Jerusalem Challah is white (though there is an egg wash on top to give it that beautiful golden crust), and it is denser and not as sweet as a yellow challah, and I like that. It’s a very pretty, traditionally braided loaf topped with sesame seeds (they have different kinds). You don’t have to wait until Friday; they have them all the time.
Jerusalem Bakery/Lior the Baker is an adventure you should embrace. I haven’t made it yet to the rugelach or the hamantaschen, though I’d have to guess that since I loved everything I’ve had so far, they’ve got to be pretty great. There is always something new that I haven’t seen before, and that adds to the fun. Yes, it is a little pricey but it’s because of the high-quality ingredients, the small-batch baking, and the time and attention it takes to make baked goods for people who want to taste the love in their pastries.